Introducing VBL Valle de Bluegrass Public Library


For nearly a decade, the Valle de Bluegrass Library (VBL) offered free K-12 homework tutoring serving emergent bilingual Latino youths of a small city in central Kentucky. It was the only bilingual public library in the state, and the only in the Bluegrass to offer afterschool homework assistance thanks in part to volunteer tutors and assistance from library staff. VBL was located in one of the city’s immigrant enclaves and fostered family educational participation outside of a school setting. VBL mediated between newly growing Latin American immigrant community in the area and local institutions, primarily local schools. The VBL afterschool program itself purported to promote educational advancement for the Latino populations of all central Kentucky, but it was limited to expanding shopping center space funded by city government and donations, and a homework program that operated four days a week for four hours each session and reached thousands of students.

yr migra blew up Ameríca (from Un/documented, Kentucky)

            for maestro Baraka



0:13the old debajo—

0:20somebody love & of thinking

0:24the hermanita is both domestically & internationally one . . .

0:29used to cover the mierda of her masters—

0:32dole . . . dome . . . dome . . . dome . . . drone da dum. . .

0:36the old somebody a—

0:40they sey—is some . . . terrorist’s liability & retina—

0:44gets a head—it wuz in Maricopa County—claro

0:48yes—uh that checks Latinos—how illegal are you you not me?

0:52partner Sunday—tho it wuzn’t sure a lot of . . .

0:56or—presidente—do w/ virtually any partial

0:59mexicharms—yells did the—

1:02it wuzn’t gonna be in the house to the White Sea diseases—that were—

1:07let people terrorized residents anything—

1:10most humanity as they please for

1:14they sey they sd we want walls we want walls—

1:17who do the same—who is this poll—

1:21who’s telling lies w/ the skies that no borders . . .

1:25thoughts out the world’s who got that plantations—that privatized prison—

1:29incarcecide in Ameríca—sideways levels

1:32who all 28—

1:35who cd show that’s all narco bullet shells—

1:39got this far—got sd this week—that matches & fires—

1:43who kill sey they’ve got it—still little

1:47cd be useful—who wuz the nameless brownface

1:51who Jesús is available—who created every day

1:55partner school grades—sey you only have a good look at it—

2:01who define a lot of fun—science to me—bombs away—the guns

2:05Google slaves—souls who call you—if they miss

2:10who sey they always been seying all—

2:14whose solo tengo—who sold me—

2:17met this hemisphere every days or so we only northward gazed—

2:23who all the buildings got the money—thank you—

2:26money . . . lots . . . you up wallpapers all—

2:29slave ship southward—well known army—little

2:32nameless ones—who is the friend—who rules—

2:37who were all older moms . . . wuz a lot you got me

2:43peace we think—the wall—more walls—

2:46altho no toilets—& we want yr oil—let me do it—

2:53who owns sales—who are on the air—along the walls

2:58or rather the migra brown murderers—late last year—old—

3:02will call you—who live in the biggest howls

3:06who do the biggest line—who go on vacation anytime hun—

3:13don’t kill mostly—it’s who kill all browns look a little—since borders bind

3:17ok—you’re the most far-reaching—cables happen

3:21& los Latinos

3:25who all levels below the borders—

3:28television or radio

3:32 even know me all hola Jose

3:36& behold so they’re also cities make the laws—

3:40all who may wish to visit—who believe the confederate flag . . .

3:44ay baby—borderline concerned abt democracy . . . & even I—no!—in recent

3:51memory sey you decide—didn’t lose it . . .

3:56who did—everybody else got richer while the engine is ideal . . .

4:01previous to this wd change the bottle . . .

4:05wd you like most people—will do most people—who know what abt survival

4:10led the colonies solos to rule the world—

4:14who sey only evil biggest sex education—a whole who all . . .

4:20who all . . . who told you what you think—that you later like that . . .

4:23I’ll bit—late—maybe sales—

4:27okay—CIA who follows—altho

4:30who always learn hot Mexical choices all the—

4:33as a whole—who know—outside Arizona—visibility is low—

4:39does it all . . .

4:41need fossil fuels—something going away—who make tutorials

4:45get the biggest sales—hot weather—

4:48conference against racism—who killed our neighbor—

4:53who kill our neighbor—such a thing—are they going to the elderly

4:57it will be it to make money painting velvet

5:02polls close in Tijuana

5:05al pastor tacos & carnitas of chins—same ones—& kill—

5:08ruled out yeah

5:11let me know—the one that’s always—

5:15laying they shd love Amurka—well that is all—

5:19don’t like Geronimo—

5:23side put me on hold—already natural habitat of a sudden—who kill you—mean I

5:29sd hey my case made . . .

5:32also what theme wuz it once tribalism

5:39press it who put in place . . .

5:42closely it’s a who wuz in Mexico . . . is it will

5:46do it—who sent a letter also gave me a little soft sole

5:51ajua!—wuz a lot simpler—lead metal into the rose is a rose

5:55all the people are nice—torture assassinated managed—

5:59the official abt you really—yeah—

6:02satellite Califas Arizona New Mexico Texas sd

6:07who got the most sensible—when the—

6:10it’s who the jurors in invisible cases—

6:15go to jail if he hears—remain inside immigrant wars— all

6:21who got shd roll back into power—who got but she’s

6:24that payload shithole—

6:29who decided so that’s it goals reconstruction the New Deal

6:34year great societal—

6:37who does our deporter-in-chief with 2,000,000 holes in his legacy—&

6:42well . . .

6:43cool the gusano—who know what got us—deported—

6:48on the lease—the visa card—

6:54calmly new w/ botas picudas

6:58also scenario it polo—

7:02pressure who wuz it wuz it he chatted with the boys in jail—

7:06seying that when that narco met me let me know—when do I start? —it is where all

7:11the hollywood edits—

7:13who sd that much—that all who need to chase it—wuz only a little

7:18whose house is really white—as it went our stay—brown adobe home that day—

7:22why did you all stay away—quotas rule—

7:26explosion allow newspapers sey the devil’s face to the CEO

7:33to make money—whole—the who—might go

7:36for sale who want the world like it’s—

7:40who wants a little like it—

7:43national so hot that

7:47bullets—who’s most powerful—

7:51well you know the seying—that but anybody seen the devil . . .

7:55like analysis . . . believing in yr life

7:58like an owl—tho the devil—altho I love—all day—

8:02like that—all the schooling & fire—

8:05we have questions—we’ll play it like there wuz nothing crazy—

8:10laugh our nalgas off a little while walls that whole us—




more mex 205

Fieldnote, 4 Sept. 2014

More of a day note, the day that I think I learned more about my teaching after a long time of teaching. One of those refresher days. One of those recharge days. 

To begin I started with the drive from Louisville to Lexington, with only slight traffic along the interstate because of construction. No accidents this day, unlike most days. I didn’t know the room to Bill’s class, and I was worried about this, and I even tried sending a message to Brian before class on Twitter to see if he had any ideas. He would also be teaching a meeting of the course in the near future. He had no idea. Maybe email one of the students on the roll? How would that sound to ask about where we’re meeting because the professor has no clue?

I ended up asking Sarah about where to head to before the class met at 9:30. I made my way to the Little Library computer lab. This is the lab I promoted my course in before with Rachel’s permission. The computers are also attached to keyboards. It’s a music class as well I reasoned. 

They were graduate students. Some M.A. students, some Ph.D.s. They studied literature by and large, linguistics, and creative writing. That was expected. We discussed three articles, by Berlin, Villanueva, and Jordan. The students formed into groups and each covered an article. As they discussed, I roamed around fielding questions and talking to groups. After 20 minutes, we came back together. 

With the Berlin article, the students discussed some of the article’s main points about rhetorical history. They critiqued the notions of periodization, they also asked what school WRD fell into. I asked the students what they thought about this. They are involved in deploying the curriculum as instructors after all. New Rhetoric or expressive rhetoric? They questioned one another. I stepped away, but not before mentioning the publication date of Berlin’s 1982 article, and also the Digital Studies in the name of our department. 

The Villanueva group instantly critiqued the style of the article. They also had questions about the author’s anecdotal evidence of microagressions in his everyday life to support his arguments. He describes two narratives: one of a meeting with his daughter’s principal and a heated faculty meeting discussing multiculturalism to make points about institutional racism. He also mixes genres and languages. They agreed it was a hard text, but they liked it. They also said they would like to write like it.

The last group was discussing Jordan. When I caught up to them they were having a debate about caricatures. I had to step in, though, and ask them about this sense of linguistic identity or misidentity and how it related in the argument put forth at the end of the article in Black English. Jordan’s students write a letter to the police of the city who allegedly murdered the brother of one of her students. The students who had studied composing Black English the entire semester used the opportunity to express themselves in their language. Students’ right to their own language. The results were that their letter was ignored by both press and the cops.

 We came together as a class at the end, and we discussed and tried to connect articles. It was a quick discussion at the end. I also introduced them to the Rhet Map and the NCTE homepage and journals. A quick class, but fun discussion. 

Then the two composition classes. We discussed news sources and connecting Instagram to WordPress blogs–also how to embed videos to blogs. Then the students formed groups of three and explored news sources. They discussed articles. Again, I walked around to ask students questions, and also cover any issues with the blog and using Instagram. 

After the two classes, I headed over to the library to volunteer for an hour. I helped a six-year-old girl and then two twin 12-year-old brothers. The brothers were accompanied by their mother who observed the entire interaction as we discussed math and writing. It was a quick lesson. I gave the mother an information sheet about the library study as well as my card. She sounded interested in the study.

I headed back to the university in terrible traffic to be in time for the Black and Latino Male Initiative BLMI meeting. I had the surveys ready, but they needed copies. We had that figured out. and we had a discussion in small groups about dreams and ethics. I was in a group that also discussed class and privilege and what it meant to be a working student. Toward the end of the meeting I distributed the survey to approximately 20 guys. I received back about 4. Kahlil will work on getting more of those out I hope. 

Mexington on

Mexington received some attention from–my favorite site for news and satire, with some smart gente working on something like The Onion for raza–perhaps The Cebolla. Ni modo.

Here’s the report. Very glad mis compas from NCTE/CCCC Latina/o Caucus for sharing support.

Mexington, Kentucky Course

The Mexington, Kentucky course is wrapping up. Most of my blogging time has been spent there this semester, so I stepped away from typing up much of my notes as the formal processes of research are getting under way. I have already collected a substantial set of data to work with, rich observations, and a huge trove of high school students writing. I’m also currently working on volume two of the LOL book.

But I need to share more about this Mexington, Kentucky class, the success it has been, and how I hope it has affected students. The website can be found here. Students’ final blog portfolios are due next week, a week from yesterday actually, and I’ll have more to share then. But I will say their projects as I understand them at the moment sound great.

The class recently was also featured in a podcast.

The course explores the Mexicanidad of Lexington, Kentucky—what we’ll call Mexington. The Mexican population of Lexington has grown by over 200% in the last two decades. Though Kentucky was not historically considered one of the traditional hubs of Mexican migration in the United States, this area of the South has experienced an increased regional presence of a transnational community with connections ranging from Baja California Norte to Chiapas. At the micro level, we will study local issues dealing with Mexican migration, activism, race, and representations in Mexington and Kentucky in general. At the macro level, we will seek to frame, conceptualize, interpret, and critique the transnational aspects of Mexicanidad in the United States and Mexico including aspects of migration to the “Nuevo South,” citizenship, detention, community building, and strategies of public rhetorics. There will be one field outing for the course (March 1), and a few events coinciding with Viva Mexico, the Year of Mexico at the UK.

Fieldnote, 21 Feb. 2013

Didn’t have to tutor last night, but did expect some forms from F signed by her father and pertaining to her and her little sister’s participation in the study. Though several students asked me to help with homework, I realized I socialized more beyond homework this evening, having sustained conversation with F about her transnational relationships with folks.

She did have the forms for us. When she saw us enter through the doors, in fact, she rushed over to sit with us. She told Sara in Spanish that she thought her father may have filled the form out wrong. They looked over the forms, and they were fine. For both the sisters, they were added to the list of participants, our third family. I have yet to move on with the staff, but we plan on approaching them soon.

F had frank conversations with us about her social media use, when she uses Spanish and English, what she wants to study, where she wants to go to school. During a conversation with her middle school counselor, she was told she should think about community college when older.

I had my laptop with me, opened because I was sending emails to folks, catching up on work. F asked if she could use it to check on something on Google. I consented.

I asked her about what social media she uses. She quickly ran down the list, “Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine . . . ”

And I asked with these media, where most of the folks she communicated lived.

“All over, in Mexico, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, North Carolina–where all my friends and cousins live now.”

After a minute, she asked me if I wanted to see what her hometown in Mexico looked like. I said sure.

She navigated to YouTube, and she showed me the following video:

As it played, she pointed out different people by name. “I’m standing by the guy filming so you can’t see me. I have some videos on my phone too, and some pictures.”

I asked where all the women in the video were.

“The women come out later. In the daytime, it’s mostly for the boys.”

Then she showed me the next video.

“See, here’s the dancing, later the women go dancing with the men.”

“They look like they are having fun,” I say.

“They are, it’s fun, very fun for like ten or more days. And they have lots of food and music, and bands too. Let me show you the band.”

And she navigated to the following video:

“I love this song,” she said. “But it doesn’t sound good on the video like when you are there.”

I asked her about what other types of events went on.

“Hay jaripeos! You know those?”

I assented. She navigated to the following video:


Fieldnote, 16 Jan 2014

Return to the Bluegrass after some time away, a month, back in AZ and then to NYC. Getting back in touch with family in both places, and I can say hearing more Spanish than I’d been accustomed to in Lexington. But late last night, I received word that a group from BCTC would do some mentoring this morning at a local middle school. I volunteered myself–again.

Fourteen volunteers showed up to mentor eight middle school students, mostly eighth graders. Most of the mentors were former college grads, and most from the DREAMer chapters of both Lexington and Louisville. They were gathered by the BCTC coordinator, who reached out via social media a few days ago. Incredible what she’s able to accomplish for mobilization on such short notice.  We formed into four groups, dividing the 8th graders into two per group and dividing the mentors into groups of two or three. I was formed into a group with a male and female mentor and with two female eighth grade students.

At my table, I sat with two mentors were recent college grads, both DREAMers. The two DREAMers, C & J,  had been active in campaigns for immigration reform, and the two 8 th graders, A & N were recent arrivals to Mexington, and new students at this middle school. I assumed that this early morning social meeting was to help them acclimate to the new environment.

The college coordinator drew up some talking points for “speed networking for reach of the four groups.”The idea, during this zero hour before school, was to speak or have conversations with the students. The basis for the “speed” happens with speed dating, for example, where potential couples chat with one another, get a feel for personality, or a brief intrusion into socializing with a stranger. This speed networking, at least in my group, turned into speed mentoring, especially when I found myself directing conversations, perhaps dwelling more than speedily moving from topic to topic.


Here’s the list of points distributed to us:

—— Middle School

Zero Hour: Latino People and Culture

Thursday, January 16th 2014

Speed Networking

1. What is your name?

2. Where are you from? City, state, country.

3. How do you identify yourself?

4. What is your heritage?

5. What do you think is the most interesting and unique part of your culture?

6. In your opinion, what does being ___ mean to you? Mexicano/a, Venezolano/a, Brasileno/a, Costarricense, Puertorriqueno/a, etc).

7. Who is your favorite Latino American artist? Musician? Athlete? Comedian? Author? Actor?

8. What is your favorite traditional food?

9. What traditional holidays/holiday customs do you observe?

10. What historical moment stands out to you in the history of your country?

11. Tell me about a folk legend for your country (la llorona, el chupacabra)

12. What sport is your country most known for?

13. Who inspires you? Why?

14. What kind of music do you like? Is that different than most people in your culture?

15. What one thing do you wish people knew about being Latino/a, Hispano/a, Mexicano/a etc?


We went through each question. When we asked about one another’s heritage, I learned that the female mentor was from Brazil. The male mentor was from Honduras. One of the 8th graders was from Lexington, moved, and came back recently. The other was from Houston. When we spoke about national heritage, the idea of diversity seemed to be privileged in the discourse. When one 8th grader, M, said she was American, she seemed somewhat distraught.

“I’m just plain American, nothing complicated.”

“Nothing complicated?” I asked. The group laughed. “That’s more complicated than you think.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, I meant compared to everyone else here, I’m just American.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” said C, the male mentor.

The other was more strategic in pointing to her hybridity, calling herself “Mexican, Asian, some German, probably French too.”

“That’s cool,” said the student M.

“But I think everyone’s mixed.”

“Yeah, I think that’s the best part of America,” said M.

“What do you mean,” I asked.

“I mean, look at this table with everyone here. This is what America looks like, and I can see why you asked when I said plain American. Because everyone here’s from all over the country or other countries, and I can tell everyone here’s American.”

“A History of Replenishment”

Repenished Ethnicities Tomas Jimenez

1882 Chinese Exclusion Act

1907 Gentlemen’s Agreement w Japan

Early 1900s, U.S. “use of Mexican labor was well established and expanding” (35). Companies sent in their hookers enganchadores to hook or indenture workers al norte. Think Joad family flyers for jobs out in California.

“Pues / bwi game thu tek jour jobes”

Pero no hay trabajos muchachos pero vamanos I’ll find ye something–don’ brang yr wives er kids tho

that’ll happen later

Operation Wetback: families back then forward / redocumetnted to be undocumented or acknowledged / databased

accounted for

Notes: Prisons of Poverty

Wacuqant, Prisons of Poverty (2009):

“Security” the removal/deportation of contagion:

“We are indeed dealing here with what is first and foremost a confinement of differentiation or segregation, aiming to keep an undesirable category separate and to facilitate its subtraction from the societal body (it results more and more frequently in deportation and banishment from the national territory), as distinct from ‘confinement of authority’ and ‘confinement of safety.'” (96)

Immigrant detention:

“To the foreigners and quasi foreigners consigned to jails and prisons, often in tiers segregated according to ethnonational origin (as at the jail of Sa Sante, in the heart of Paris, where inmates are distributed into four separate and hostile wards, ‘white,’ ‘African,’ ‘Arab,’ and ‘rest of the world’), one must add the thousands of migrants without papers or awaiting deportation, especially by virtue of ‘double sentencing,’ arbitrarily held in those state-sponsored enclaves of juridical limbo, the ‘waiting areas’ and ‘retention centers’ that have mushroomed over the past decade throughout the European Union.” (96)

Economics of imprisonment enforcing workforce control:

“. . . the stupendous increase in the population under lock artificially reduces the unemployment rate in the short fun by making a significant volume of potential job seekers vanish from the labor-force statistics. But, over the medium and long run, it can only worsen the jobless rate by making those who have sojourned behind bars harder to employ–nay, unemployable in a deskilled labor market that is already overcrowded. One must add to this labor-market impact the destabilizing effects of incarceration on the populations and places most directly put under penal tutelage: the stigmatization and the sense of indignity it carries; the interruption of educational, marital, and occupational trajectories; the destabilization of families and the amputation of social networks; the crystallization of a ‘culture of resistance’ and even defiance of authority in the dispossessed districts where imprisonment is becoming a routine occurrence, even a normal stage in the life course of lower-class young men; and the whole train of pathologies, suffering, and (inter)personal violence commonly associated with passage through the carceral institution” (124)

K-12 to College: How Can We Promote Success of Minority Males in Higher Education?

This is my first time at the Annual Institute on Teaching and Mentoring, and this happens at a point in my life when I reflect on where I am, professionally and academically, and consider where I’ve come from. I want to speak today, and tell you a little bit of my story, and mentors who helped me to find my way, and to understand that being a Latino in higher education can sometimes be lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I never fit in with Latinos or white folks. Latinos thought I was too agringado, that is, whitewashed, what you might call a coconut, un coco, puro brown on the outside, but white interior. You’ve heard that one before no doubt, but maybe as the Oreo version. White folks didn’t always dig me either, even though I could speak English like them and didn’t know hardly any Spanish—English was my first language, I’m currently what scholars like Ofelia Garcia would term an “emergent bilingual.” Still, they would look at me funny when they heard how my mother spoke, when she called me m’ijo, or when she slipped in a few words in Spanish. And yes, there was that confusion, “You Asian?” That still happens.

My trajectory, well, right now it leads me here, at SREB speaking about Latino male success.

Here, so close to the nation’s capital, sharing my story with all of you; me, the sole Mexican American faculty member in the College of Arts of Sciences at the University of Kentucky, sharing my voice and pieces of my narrative trajectory to that position—all the way from Safford, Arizona of southeastern Arizona, my voice to your ears.

Orale, that’s some poetic stuff que no? But I want to stop and think about opportunity, and tell you what opportunities, oportunidades, have meant for me as a Latino male . . . and my family.

You see, I’m a first-generation college student, a second-generation U.S. citizen, the son of Mexican immigrants who didn’t graduate high school, but who always worked. Always, always worked. Multiple jobs: mining copper, driving a school bus, cleaning doctor’s offices, banks, houses, the chamber of commerce, and a movie theater, landscaping, babysitting, selling tamales and tortillas to our white neighbors, and repairing clothes and radios. Where did I get my work ethic?

By example, from mentors, from my parents, from their strengths, and from their shoulders. From their work, they taught me to work, and though my work is different than theirs, for some more prestigious and even desirable, I see the dignity of my parents’ lives, and I recognize the family effort involved to get me where I am, to maximize opportunities presented to my generation that were formerly unavailable to previous generations.

My parents’ work became opportunities for me, even despite various obstacles—financial and academic. Fortunately for me, attending college brought me into contact with mentors, with teachers, counselors, academic outreach professionals, professors, and other students. My education allowed me to expand my networks by having dialogues with people who understood what the opportunity of going to college meant for students like me, and how hard I was willing to work. Dialogues open discussions, and the foster spaces for sharing stories and wisdom, feedback learning from one another, as well as sometimes debate, conflict, perhaps controversy, but a safe space where questions can be openly asked.

Let me pause here, and turn to a poem written by a Latino male I know named Ricardo Perez.

Ricardo’s a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. He’s a member of the school’s Latino Outreach Leaders club. The Latino Outreach Leaders, or LOL, are a student-led organization that performs outreach into the Bluegrass region. LOL’s objective is to empower and inspire Latinos to stay in school and pursue their educational goals. Ricardo was one of the 18 LOL students who co-authored the LOL book “Living Out Loud: Our Stories, Our Struggles.” The book is available for $10 if you are interested. This is his poem “don’t cross the line,” which he told me was the first poem he had written that wasn’t for a class.

                        don’t cross the line

si, nosotros crusamos la frontera.

pero that doesn’t give you the right to cross the line and judge us

we are an example of people fighting for happiness.

We can do anything we want as long as we put our mind to it.

            Si se puede

You call us lazy

Say we come here to do nothing but have anchor babies

But without us you wouldn’t have America, you wouldn’t have our labor

This nation was built on immigrant blood

Mi famila y yo hemos hecho de este apis

Tu piensas that only because I come from somewhere else I have no

Right to succeed in life.

Give me a notebook and a pencil, I’ll write you my story.

When you read it, you’ll realize that my life isn’t easy and if you live it

You’d be grateful not to have lived what I’ve lived.

Si quieren que seamos major en este pais, denos la oportunidad

De demonstratles de lo que somos capaces.

Give me the opportunity to show you that I can be as great as you, as your parents, and as your president

I am capable of doing everything you can do, but it’s harder for me

Why? Because of obstacles history threw at me.

Don’t throw me obstacles throw me opportunities and you’ll see what I can do.

solo quiero triunfar,

y ahora me quieren deportar

y yo no quiero trabajar,

yo voy a luchar, yo voy a triunfar.

Ya nomas.

I feel like I should translate those last words: “I only want to triumph, and now they want to deport me, and I don’t want to work, I want to fight, I will triumph. Enough already.” Ricardo’s passionate poem shares his anxieties about citizenship and opportunities to succeed in the United States. He writes in the poem about his desire to express himself, and to share his story—and I argue establishes a voice that calls seeking responses. “Give me a notebook and a pencil,” he writes, “I’ll write you my story. When you read it you’ll realize that my life isn’t easy.” The sharing of struggle is important for him, but as someone who has experienced struggles—similar to Ricardo’s in fact—I can say that the sharing of these experiences, of collective struggle, is the first place for healing, and for strategizing a plan for action, with the right mentors of course.

But let’s look at these lines near the end: “don’t throw me obstacles throw me opportunities and you’ll see what I can do.” Ricardo challenges his audience for equity, powerfully calling upon and critiquing a tradition of exclusion. Just before these lines he writes “I am capable of doing everything you can do, but it’s harder for me. Why? Because of obstacles history threw at me.” Ricardo acknowledges both agency and social constraint, but expresses his own potential and confidence to meet challenges imposed upon him. He is indeed a capable young man, someone who has the strengths of his family behind him supporting him emotionally. Academically, he has reached out to me as a mentor. Of course I’ve responded.

I’m on the opposite side of the mentorship dynamic now. From mentee to mentor. It’s young men like Ricardo who remind me of my duty as a faculty member to mentor to establish relationships of confianza or trust with students that demonstrate a human connection, or a human face representative of the institution, even those that have historically thrown obstacles at Latino males. As a mentor, I see the importance of confianza connecting students to one another, but also to faculty and opportunities for professional development.

I have begun this presentation with the personal, with me, but I want to extend into something somewhat academic here.

I want to make an argument to you all, an argument about how dialogue, sharing stories, sharing common hardships, all wound with the relationship fostered through sustained mentorship based on confianza. I want to make four points that not only describe areas of intervention for Latino male academic success, but make four points about opportunities Latino males deserve. Latino male students deserve 1) quality mentorship relationships, relationships that are meaningful for both mentees and mentors, 2) institutional support to ensure their success, 3) opportunities for professional development, and 4) spaces for dialoging with students sharing similar experiences. These four aspects shape the success of Latino male students and can foster pivotal moments, or academic interventions that leave lasting impacts by transforming social and psychological orientations toward academic achievement. Pivotal moments can open academic pathways, where students can envision themselves, and their trajectories, where they are now, where they want to be, and drawing from their past to build a future.

I want to give you some context about Latino males in the commonwealth of Kentucky—which like much of the South has seen a tremendous increase in its Latino/Hispanic population. On this slide, you can see a few numbers. The first point notes that in 2010, Latinos composed 3% of Kentucky’s population. That sounds miniscule, but when you consider the next point, you see how tremendous it is. From 2000-2010, the state’s Latino population increased 122%, and the youth population 165%. Like much of the South, the 1990s and onward have seen remarkable growth of Latino communities, especially Mexican immigrant communities. During the same years, 2000-2010, Latino male enrollment at the University of Kentucky increased by 180%. This is promising, except when we look at the data from the secondary level. 62% of Kentucky’s Latino young men are graduating, 7% lower than their White male classmates.

I share these numbers to offer a quick profile, but also to hint at the urgency of what I’m speaking or regarding the previous four points of intervention. The first you may recall is mentorship.

Good mentors are hard to find. Mentors for students teach behaviors associated with effective participation in educational institutions, strategic navigation of school processes, and resilient coping with forces that hinder school success. They are both advisers and advocates. Indeed, mentors are special people, and they come in many forms, but they are not born—mentors are made. Mentors must be trained and coached, but they must also have a personal investment—a sense of trust and bonding with students, which comes from sharing stories. Not only sharing stories, however, but listening and learning to listen to students without judging them, their parents, their social class, race, ethnicity, or immigration status. Mentorship is a relationship, strengthened by honesty and nurtured over a consistent and extended period of time. With time mentors also learn how to mentor, and learn to advocate for  students, to “throw them opportunities” as they advocate for student success. Yet mentorship connected to schooling, especially for Latino male students, is most effective with institutional support.

Institutional support ensures that internal support systems are in place for Latino males, and recognizes that these students “matter.” Internal support systems must promote engagement and encourage success, but also mentorship and dialogues. The investment begins, as I mentioned before, with space for students, a safe space to dialogue. Dialogues, however, are not necessary among students and mentors only, however. They need to happen among faculty and staff who must learn cultural competence. Since 2000, this has been a pressing issue for the state of Kentucky, a state nearly 90% White with a relatively recent influx of Latinos.

Related to institutional support is professional development. During dialogues with Latino males at the UK, the Black and Latino Male Initiative realized that students wanted more contact with faculty to learn about opportunities for networking, how to professionalize, and learning skills about how to be “an insider” in their respected fields. What they want, you see, is what you all have here. You see how much work has gone into planning this event, and the number of people invested in you here. Professional development can happen through workshops, but also in working with students. The student in the photo here, Roberto, is speaking at a conference at the University of Arizona. He presented his story about gaining his citizenship status. Roberto is a Dreamer, and a colleague and I asked him to be a part of a panel during a conference. We arranged funds for him to travel, and we assisted him with his presentation. He had never presented before—but let me assure you, he killed it.

Before I conclude, I want to speak for just a minute about dialogues. The dialogues in the BLMI project at UK are central. They happen in a safe space, which is important. The space shapes conversations, the arrangement of tables and chairs, the ability to see and hear one another when speaking, and the assurance that what gets said stays in the room, and any topic is open for discussion.

The power of dialogue happens in listening and responding, in sharing and building community. Students build community with one another as they share their experiences, their challenges, but also pivotal moments in their lives and educations. Their stories can be transformative for others, while also reinforcing community, and academic self-perceptions and involvement. For Black and Latino males in dialogues with one another, this can also build bridges among folks to find similarities but also ask questions.

I’m going to end on that note, but I want to summarize the found points once more, as you see here. Mentorship, institutional support, professional development, and dialogues. Yes, all important for “throwing opportunities” at Latino males. But I want to speak just very briefly about an example that hits on a point I just made about building bridges between Black and Latino males.

During one BLMI dialogue session (which happen monthly) we had a “barbershop.” We invited a local barber to cut hair while we had dialogues. The event was a success because students and faculty got their haircut. But my favorite part of the event was observing the dialogues about hair between Latino and Black students. “Do Latinos get fades?” was one question from an African American student. “Why are barbershops important for African Americans?” was one question from a Latino.

Let the dialogues ensue, right?

Thank you for your time, and if you would like to speak more about what I talked about today, please send me an email or stop me to chat if you see me. Gracias a ustedes.


Represent style shifts: patterns of codes. Repertoires.



Multiple systems.

Two systems.

Or one system.

Bilingualism. Repertoire acquisition? Repertoire extension.

Wacquant on Institutional Analyses in Ethnography

From Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality

“[E}thnographic observation emerges as an indispensable tool, first to pierce the screen of discourses whirling around these territories or urban perdition which lock inquiry within the biased perimeter of the pre-constructed object, and secondly to capture the lived relations and meanings that are constitutive of the everyday reality of the marginal city-dweller. But, lest one condemn oneself to monographic myopia, fieldwork cannot for a single moment do without institutional analysis, and vice versa–even if one of the other is sidelined or muted at certain moments of the research and its end-product. It must be guided at every step by the methodological knowledge, itself constantly revised and enriched by the first-person study of concrete situations, of the macrostructural determinants that, although ostensibly absent from the neighborhood, still govern the practices and representations of its residents because they are inscribed in the material distribution of resources and social possibles as well as lodged inside bodies in the form of categories of perception, appreciation, and action.”